A real–world interactive adventure created for a select group of influencers.

The brief

Reconnect with the journalists who loved and supported Hurts debut album “Happiness” and get them excited about upcoming record “Exile”.

Background info

  • Hurts are a British synthpop band from Manchester consisting of synthesist Adam Anderson and singer Theo Hutchcraft.
  • We were given a list of target journalists by Hurts management.
  • Adam and Theo spent time in Russia while recording, influencing the album’s content and their approach to marketing it.

The solution

We created a bespoke real world interactive experience for a small group of target journalists which piqued their attention and led them down a rabbit hole of intrigue and mystery.

A bit of homework

We started out by finding each journalist’s work address, and also obtaining a good quality photo of them.

The cassette recorder

We sent each journalist an old fashioned “reporter” style cassette recorder emblazoned in red nail varnish with a cryptic “H” logo.

A vintage “reporter” style cassette recorder, emblazoned with a cryptic “H” logo in red nail varnish.

It also included a typewritten note asking them to keep an eye on their post:

A typewritten note on brown paper saying “Keep an eye on your post”.

This immediately piqued their interest:

The Russian letter

Next to arrive was a hand–addressed envelope from Russia. Except it wasn’t really from Russia. We actually got Hurts’ Russian label to send us genuine local postage stamps, and we had a very crafty gentleman make us up some Russian postmark stamps. The letters were then hand–delivered to the offices of our journos.

Screenshot of Oliver Primus’ (The Guardian and The 405) tweet showing a photo of the envelope.

Inside was a beautifully written love letter, composed of lyrics from Hurts’ last album and signed by the enigmatic Valentina (or Leon, depending on who was receiving the letter)...

A photo of the hand written love letter.

The dry cleaners

We also included a ticket for an item conveniently deposited at the nearest dry cleaners to their office.

A photo of the dry cleaning ticket.

Waiting there was a dinner jacket embroidered with our H symbol:

A member of staff at the dry cleaners hands over the dinner jacket to PopJustice.

…and with a gold cassette in the breast pocket:

A close up of the dinner jacket showing the gold cassette in the pocket.

NME, Notion Magazine and Popjustice all visited the dry cleaning place. Popjustice wrote an in–depth article about the experience:

A screenshot of Popjustice’s article entitled “So we went to the dry cleaing place”.

Each cassette tape contained music from the new album, intercut with snippets from Russian radio stations. In the box was a carefully photoshopped polaroid of the journalist with either Leon or Valentina, labelled with “Heaven 7.2.13”, the date and location of the band’s upcoming London gig.

This was the first time that music from “Exile” had been heard by anyone outside the band and label.

Our journalists were clearly enjoying the campaign, as evidenced by this tweet from Guardian writer Rob Fitzpatrick:

Popjustice summed up the experience so far at the end of one of their three in–depth articles.

What have we learned? 1. Pop is exciting. 2. Hurts are amazing. 3. The End.

The Russian dolls

There was more to come. A few days later, each journalist received a final package containing a set of Russian dolls. The smallest doll had a gold chain attached, and a note from Valentina (or Leon) asking them to wear it to the band’s gig at Heaven.

The indoctrination

On producing their Russian doll at the gig, our journalists were led to what they thought was a VIP bar. In fact, immersive theatre and storytelling company Reuben Feels had created a bespoke theatrical experience.

Once all the journalists were in place, Leon and Valentina took them to meet their enigmatic leader Jon. This developed into a 5 minute narrative in which the journalists were indoctrinated into a strange cult.

A photograph of the hooded cult.

Once the initiation was complete the journalists were each given a beautiful bound book, signed by Adam and Theo from Hurts and containing all of the lyrics from the new album. They were then led downstairs where the gig was about to commence.

A photo of the book of lyrics from Exile, signed by the band. Screenshot of a Tweet from Shortlist Editor Martin Robinson.

The interactive theatre app for iOS

The Exile app allowed members of the public to go take part in the same narrative we developed for the journalists. The theatrical part of the app was also written and produced by Rueben Feels.

Participants interacted with the story by speaking, and encountered music from Exile along the way. The app was recorded using 3D binaural audio, and was included in The Guardian’s 30 Best iPhone and iPad apps during the week of Exile’s release.

An iPhone running the Hurts Exile app.

The results

The campaign hooked it’s target audience from the off, generating a slew of tweets and articles from the journalists who were judged most important by the band and label, including writers from The Guardian, NME, Notion Magazine, Dummy Magazine, Popjustice and ShortList.


Agency team

Sony Music / Major Label
Creative Directors
Phil Clandillon & Steve Milbourne
El Neal & Kate Geary
Sophie Yeoman
Project Management
Benoit Cillard
Audio Engineers
Matthew Walters & Peter Hammerton
Haolin Yang
Andy Hui
Interactive Audio & Design
Andy Goodridge
Voice Over
Tom Denning
Rosalind Wyatt

Immersive theatre team

Theatre Company
Reuben Feels
Isabel Soden & Francesca Gardiner
Directors / Producers
Isabel Soden, Natalie K Marsland, Dom Le Moignan, Adam Johnstone
App Cast
Rachel Snider, Alyssa Kyria, Will Scott Masson
Gig Cast
Niki Khitrova, Emil Lager, George Siena, Thom Mitchell
Eleanor Taylor–Davis
The Reuben Feels Choir